A TOWER block resident is lucky to be alive today after a blaze erupted in his 13th-floor flat.
Neighbours and passers-by were left shaken as windows in the top floor of Eglinton Tower, Monkwearmouth, blew out due to the intense heat.
Firefighters and paramedics rushed to help the elderly occupant of the building as the drama unfolded yesterday afternoon.
Witnesses told the Echo how they heard a loud bang before seeing smoke billowing out of the windows.
Several people, including those inside the building and those passing in the street, made 999 calls fearing someone could be trapped inside.
Five fire engines, including one equipped with a Skylift, arrived in minutes. Police and an ambulance were also on the scene.
While the fire was quickly extinguished, residents who had been evacuated from the tower block waited anxiously outside as paramedics made their way up to the flat to attend to the man.
At around 2.10pm the pensioner from the damaged flat was brought out in a wheelchair and wearing an oxygen mask before being taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital.
It is believed the man lived alone and nobody else was in the flat at the time.
One neighbour, who called 999, was alerted to the fire by her window cleaner.
She said: “He was ringing the bell and shouting that there was a fire and telling me to ring 999.
“It was well alight, there was a lot of smoke billowing out. The response was practically immediate, the fire engines were here within a couple of minutes.”
Another neighbour said she heard a loud bang and also saw “a lot of black smoke billowing out”.
The injured man’s neighbour said she could smell the smoke and ran out of the building in a panic.
“I could smell it in the kitchen, then in the living room and I thought it was something in my flat. Then I could smell it in the passage, so I locked all the doors and windows and doors and ran down.
“It’s going to take a long time to sort that flat out but it’s just nice that he’s ok.”
Black scorch marks were visible on the outside of the building yesterday.
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: “At 1.30pm police received a report of a fire on the 13th floor of a block of flats at Abbs Street.
“Part of the building was evacuated while the fire was extinguished.
“Inquiries are ongoing into the cause of the fire.”
Police have requested anyone with information about the blaze to contact them on 101.